Friday, 11 March 2011


My old friend Archie asked me yesterday if I would give him a help with his plot. He has been down most days and trying hard to get it ready to plant up. We have had a week  of weather that has not been conducive to digging, or planting. 

So time is catching up with him, as the time for planting seed potatoes approaches.

He said that he was struggling at the very thought of having it done. He is a proud man and to ask for help was not easy, I was aware of that. So as soon as we can I will go down and give him a hand by turning over his soil for him. He was about to go into a speech of thanks, instead I told him to remember the story of Albrecht Durer.

I was surprised that he had not heard it, so told it to him. Today I repeat it here. If you know the story I apologise, though it is always worthy of another read.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
 When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."
 All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No"
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ...
for me it is too late."
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one - no one - - ever makes it alone! Let me apologise that I have not used his hands on this blog but rather a feeble attempt I made at painting my own hands. It does I hope emphasis the difficulty of the work I am talking about. 

This blog is linked to my other. A Work In Progress 2


  1. I hadn't read this story before, Ralph. Thanks for sharing such a touching and true story this a.m.

  2. Nice post, Ralph, and you are lucky to have Archie to help! Have you tried the purple variety of potatoes? There are hundreds of different varieties!

  3. hi mr ralph! just getting a bit of the tsunami waves here in san diego. praying for japan. we are all connected, and you are a good hearted soul.

  4. Your painting of your hands is wonderful..(we can't all be Albrecht Durer haha...but you should be proud of this painting for sure!) great story...thanks for sharing it. :)

  5. Hands are so difficult to draw let alone painting them. You did a really good job, and thanks for sharing this touching story. Enjoyed your post very much today.

  6. I think you did a nice job on your painting of your hands.

    When my father was dying, my brother-in-law took photos of each of us kids holding our father's hand. Each photo tells a story. I'll keep mine forever.